INDIANAPOLIS — It’s only March, but are we already discussing the 2019 fantasy football season? Yes, indeed.
The NFL calendar has several events on it that affect the fantasy football value of players all over the league. Unless you live under a rock, you know that the whirlwind that is NFL free agency blew in two weeks ago and sent tons of old faces to new places.
With the major waves of free agency calmed down, NFL.com senior fantasy analyst Michael Fabiano gave his take on which NFL veterans had their fantasy stock go up or down based on the moves made in free agency.
Listed among his “winners” is a familiar face to Indianapolis Colts fans in running back Marlon Mack. Here’s what Fabiano had to say on why the Colts’ third-year rusher is a fantasy winner:
“The Colts have a ton of money to spend, and some out there (including myself) were hoping they would use some of it to sign Le'Veon Bell. Well, Bell signed with the Jets and Indianapolis looks secure with Mack atop its 2019 depth chart. He'll have high-RB2 potential in the Colts' offense.”
After splitting time behind Frank Gore as a rookie in 2017, Mack earned the starting role in the Colts’ backfield in 2018, and the resulting breakout season was even more impressive considering he missed four of the team's first five games as he dealt with a hamstring injury.
Including the NFL playoffs, Mack appeared in 14 games for the Colts, starting 12 of them. He put up five 100-yard rushing games and had eight different games with a touchdown. Mack was also the only player to rush for 100 yards against the Houston Texans in 2018 when he accumulated a career-high 148 in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
During the regular season, Mack achieved new single-season highs in carries (195), rushing yards (908), yards per carry (4.7), rushing touchdowns (nine), total touches (212), yards from scrimmage (1,011) and touchdowns from scrimmage (10).
He finished among the top 25 fantasy running back in seven different weeks, and in those games, he finished in the top 10 four times.
Looking ahead to the 2019 season, it’s hard to disagree with Fabiano about Mack’s impact as a potential high-end RB2 — so far, the Colts haven’t added any three-down or goal-line backs in free agency who would eat into Mack’s touches or short-yardage touchdown chances.
Mack will also have an outstanding offensive line to run behind once again, as all five starters are under contract in 2019, and general manager Chris Ballard has expressed a desire to continue adding to the depth up front.
When he came into the league two years ago, Mack was very much a college spread-system runner, but he has quickly developed into a complete, NFL-style runner since then, but his growth isn’t done.
With all those factors in tow, it’s easy to see that Mack could make a big impact for fantasy owners in 2019.
For what it’s worth, Mack wasn't the only Colts player on Fabiano's list. Fabiano listed Colts’ Pro Bowl tight end Eric Ebron among fantasy’s “losers” from free agency due to the arrival of fellow red-zone threat Devin Funchess as well as the expected regression from scoring 14 touchdowns in a single regular season.
Here is Fabiano’s explanation:
“Ebron was one of the best draft bargains in fantasy football last season, but touchdown regression is a virtual guarantee. That mindset was elevated even further when the Colts added Devin Funchess, who at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds will see at least some of Ebron's red-zone targets.”
Given Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and Ebron's chemistry — especially in the red zone — we'll have to see about that last prediction.